3rd August 2020

Update: Suspects Plead ‘Not Guilty’ to ATM Fraud in Zambia

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In view of a today’s article appearing in The Post newspaper, we’d like to shed a little light on the “gadgets’ being referred to in the trial of three Bulgarians charged with three counts of unauthorized access of intercepting data and cyber theft through hacking bank ATMs. The main concern is that lawyers for the accused argued that the indictment was defective because it did not clearly state what kind of gadgets the accused were found with. As a result, the trio did not initially file a plea but now have gone the ‘not guilty’ route. Depending on how shrewd the accused’s lawyers are, this could potentially be a major loophole in interpreting the law and, if the accused are guilty, a tragic miscarriage of justice.

The details of the charges are that, firstly, on dates unknown but between November 7 and December 11, 2013 in Lusaka, three Bulgarians jointly and whilst acting together and without lawful authority or permission, intentionally accessed or intercepted data by planting a gadget on an ATM belonging to Barclays Bank Zambia Plc. Secondly, the trio is charged with possession of devices for capturing data contrary to the electronic communications and transactions Act. Thirdly, it is alleged that the trio stole K945, 485.79 the property of Barclays Bank Zambia Plc.

In light of this, we thought we’d briefly engage our audience with ATM Fraud 101. According to howstuffworks.com:

ATM skimming is a quieter, more high-tech form of theft targeting ATMs. The skimmer is a card reader placed over the real ATM card slot so that when you slide your card into the ATM, you’re unwittingly sliding it through the counterfeit reader, which scans and stores all the information on the magnetic strip. Additionally, some ATM skimming schemes employ the use of fake keypads or tiny hidden cameras to capture PIN numbers.

We can only hope that the prosecution can finally add a name to these “gadgets” in order for justice to be served accordingly. In the United States, for instance, guilty fraudsters have been sentenced up to 30 years imprisonment plus fines which can go as high as $1 million! With the recent boom of banking e-services in Zambia, including online shopping, we expect that fraudulent activity will be on the rise. Therefore, it is inevitable to begin discussing information security and ways of combating ATM fraud in Zambia.

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